Nigeria: 59 Years of Resilience
By Emmanuel Afonne, Ifeanyi Nwoko and Femi Ogunsola, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Nigeria, the most populous Black country in the world is often referred to as the creation of the then British colonial administration.
The country came into existence in its present form via the 1914 amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates by Sir Frederick Lugard.
Before the amalgamation, 16 years earlier, Flora Shaw, who later married Lugard, first suggested in an article for The Times, that the several British protectorates on the Niger be called Nigeria.
Nevertheless, “On Oct. 1, 1960, in spite many difficulties, focusing mainly on the differences, among its various component groups, Nigeria became a sovereign federation.’’
Ever since it became a sovereign nation, Nigeria has demonstrated great resilience to survive as a nation.
Within the first 10 years of existence as an independent nation, there was a military take-over, the `Wild Wild West,’ a protest against electoral fraud in the then Western Region and a 30-month old civil war.
In fact, Prof. Michael Crowther, in his book, The Story of Nigeria, described the period 1960 to 1970, as A Decade of Trouble.
The peaceful co-existence was threatened on Jan. 15, 1966, when some mutinous young military officers led by Maj. Chukwuma Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna staged a coup to upstage the democratic structures.
The young officers were irked about the high level of corruption, among others.
Many prominent Nigerians were killed, including the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, while late Maj-Gen Aguiyi Ironsi became the head of state.
The coup became the precursor that led to the 30-month civil war.
Nigeria, with a population of about 60 million in 1960, and with over 300 ethnic groups, has not made the desired impact.
The apparent “crawling’’ of the country was traced to poor leadership.
Prof. Chinua Achebe captured it in his book: “The Trouble with Nigeria.”
The great novelist traced Nigeria’s problem to poor and visionless leadership.
Nigeria has been described as “a giant with feet of clay,’’ no thanks to visionless leadership since independence.
Irrespective of Nigeria not making the desired impact, many world leaders still believed in the ability and capability of Nigeria to make a difference.
President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump had in 2018 during the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to White House, described Nigeria as “the largest democracy in Africa”.
Trump said: “As I conveyed to President Buhari in our discussions, the United States deeply values and appreciates Nigeria’s role as a strong, democratic leader in the region.
“The United States is currently working to expand trade and commercial ties with African nations, including Nigeria, to create jobs and wealth in all of our countries.
“We hope to be the economic partner of choice for nations across the continent and all around the world.”
Trump further said: “I especially want to thank President Buhari for Nigeria’s partnership and leadership in the fight against terrorism; he has been a real leader.
“Nigeria was one of the first African nations to join the coalition to defeat ISIS, and Nigerian forces are currently leading regional efforts against ISIS in West Africa.
“Nigeria is also leading African nations in the fight against Boko Haram, another ruthless jihadist terrorist group; you’ve been reading about them.
“ They kidnapped young girls and young women, many of whom never are seen again,” Trump added.
Furthermore, Mr Colin Powel, retired general and former American Secretary of State, in his last visit to Nigeria, observed that the country is blessed with “incredible wealth and enormous potential.’’
On his part, Buhari also outlined a number of reasons why Nigeria might have underperformed as a nation.
He listed them as over dependence on oil, unsuccessful economic policies, widespread corruption and the country’s bad reputation on the international scene.
“We are making progress in the fight against corruption and recovery of stolen public funds and assets in spite vicious and stiff resistance.
“The shameful past practice of the brazen theft of billions of naira is no more.
“Shady oil deals and public contracts that were never delivered have become things of the past.
“Consequently, and this is very evident across the country, we have done more with less in infrastructural developments.
“Roads, railways, major bridges, schools, energy and power, air and sea ports, welfare of serving and retired personnel both civilian and military, including payment of legacy debts, such as pension arrears, have been attended to.
“There is now an enabling environment for local and foreign investment in Nigeria.
“We are building a rules-based system, a level playing field that is free from fixers and intermediaries.
“This is the cornerstone to help genuine investors and honest consumers, and the platform that will allow for the real reforms that we intend to deliver over the coming years.
“We are gradually strengthening the economy with a stable naira and falling inflation rate.
“We are building an economy that is moving away from over reliance on oil; consequently we have witnessed massive return to farms and seen bumper harvest, in spite recurrent floods across the country.
“These positive developments are the result of our collective pursuit of a common vision, through hard work and dedication.”
Notwithstanding the slow pace of development, analysts say the country has remained together in spite great threats to national cohesion.
One of the greatest threats to national existence, besides the 30-month civil war, was the annulment of the June 12 Presidential Election.
The June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, that was adjudged to be the most credible in the country’s electoral history, in which Chief MKO Abiola, was the acclaimed winner, was annulled by then Military President Ibrahim Babangida.
There were protests in many parts of the country, especially, the South-West.
The “stepping aside’’ of Babangida and handing over to the Interim National Government headed by Ernest Shonekan, did not stop the protests.
Even the death of Gen. Sani Abacha who took over power from Shonekan, did not solve the problem.
Respite came to the country, when the administration of Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar (rtd) supervised the election that produced President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, and other elected officers at state and local government levels.
Abdulsalam took over the mantle of leadership after the death of Abacha.
Analysts are in agreement that at 59, Nigeria ought to be walking tall, but that is not the case.
Nigeria still imports petroleum products, a country that started drilling oil on its own soil in 1956; it still imports food, though endowed with large expanse of arable land, still battling with poor road networks across the country.
In spite the snail speed of development and other challenges, they say that the ability to remain as one country is commendable.
They hoped that with visionary leadership on the saddle, the narrative will change. (NANFeatures)